Africa’s Progress Towards Clean Water Security

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Clean water is a vital component of human life, crucial for health, agriculture, and community well-being. Despite this, many African communities still struggle with access to reliable and clean water sources. However, through innovative solutions and concerted efforts by African leaders, the situation is slowly improving.


Sub-Saharan Africa, despite having an abundance of freshwater resources, struggles with a significant issue. According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 418 million people lack access to basic drinking water. This lack of access has a direct impact on daily life, affecting health, hygiene, food production, and economic development.


Reports from WHO reveal that diarrheal diseases linked to contaminated water claim the lives of approximately 502,000 people in Africa each year. The lack of sufficient water supply also hampers agricultural production, making it difficult for farmers to irrigate their crops and resulting in reduced yields. This not only exacerbates food insecurity but also affects approximately 256 million people, as reported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).


Correcting the wrongs

African leaders and governments have undertaken numerous initiatives to address the continent’s water crisis. Notably, the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) promotes effective water management policies and practices across the continent. Countries such as Rwanda and Senegal are setting an example by implementing ambitious water management programmes.


Rwanda’s National Strategy for Transformation aims to achieve 100% access to clean water by 2024, a goal that involves extensive infrastructure development, including the construction of new water treatment plants and the rehabilitation of existing water systems. Additionally, community engagement programmes are being implemented to ensure sustainable water use. Since 2018, Rwanda’s efforts have lifted approximately 2 million people out of water scarcity.


In Senegal, the Millennium Water and Sanitation Programme (PEPAM) is focused on improving nationwide water and sanitation services. The programme has constructed thousands of boreholes and hand pumps in rural areas, ensuring that even the most remote communities have access to clean water. As a result, approximately 3.5 million people in Senegal now enjoy improved access to clean water.


Over the past decade, governments, international organisations, and private sector partners have invested substantial sums in water projects, totaling billions of dollars. Specifically, the African Development Bank (AfDB) committed approximately $6.2 billion to water and sanitation projects between 2010 and 2020, while the World Bank provided over $5 billion in funding for water projects in Africa during the same period.

According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene, approximately 60% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population now has access to at least basic drinking water services.


This represents a significant improvement, as over 100 million people have been lifted out of water scarcity since the last decade. Ethiopia’s One WASH National Programme has reached 6 million people with improved water services, while Nigeria’s Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Subprogramme has benefited 9 million individuals.


Innovative Solutions

The African water revolution is driven by innovative solutions that combine cutting-edge technology with local knowledge to address the continent’s pressing water challenges. One such example is the widespread adoption of solar-powered water pumps, which provide a sustainable and cost-effective means of accessing groundwater in off-grid communities. In Kenya, for instance, solar-powered desalination plants are transforming seawater into potable water, thereby providing a lifeline to coastal communities that were previously reliant on scarce and expensive alternatives.


Moreover, community-led water management initiatives are proving to be highly effective. These projects empower local communities to take charge of their water resources, ensuring that they are used sustainably and maintained effectively. The Water User Associations (WUAs) model in Tanzania is a prime example of this approach, having successfully managed water resources and resolved conflicts over water use.


Another promising innovation is the use of remote sensing technology for groundwater mapping, which enables more effective identification and management of water resources. In Burkina Faso, this technology has been used to locate and develop new water sources, thereby improving access to clean water for thousands of rural households.


A narrative of innovation and leadership is unfolding. Despite the persistence of challenges, the progress made thus far is inspiring, illuminating a brighter future where every African has access to safe and clean water. The continent’s vision for water availability and security driven by sustainable water management solutions, is within reach, with continued investment and collaboration paving the way for transformative change. While the road ahead may be long and arduous, the strides already taken provide a glimpse into a healthier, more prosperous future for Africa.

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